COVID-19 Testing Assistant and Researcher

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This semester, I have worked as a COVID-19 Testing Assistant and Researcher. Seeing both aspects of the COVID-19 collection, sampling, and results process has many perspectives. I learned a lot about the OSU collection process and the transport of each sample to the New Jersey Vault lab while working as a Testing Assistant. Additionally, I have learned a lot about the research process by learning about the Epic platform, that the Wexner Medical Center uses, and the PCR process for patient samples.

What does a typical day as a Testing Assistant look like?

My shifts varied, either starting at 7 am or 2 pm, but the activities each day were the same. Once entering the J.O. North building, each Assistant needed to don a surgical mask, bright neon vest, and a clean face shield. Once everything was properly worn, each Assistant would approach a supervisor and ask where to be placed. The supervisor would direct the Testing Assistant to one of the three quadrants within the J.O. North.

Within the three quadrants, students were either placed into the ‘first-time tester’ section or ‘returning tester’ section. These sections allowed for an efficient process and helped each Testing Assistant understand how to approach each student. If a student was a first-time tester, it was important to describe the Vault website in-depth and explain how to collect the saliva sample for testing. If a student was a returning tester, it was important to give a quick rundown of the saliva collection process.

At the end of the day, surgical masks were disposed of and the entire building was sprayed down.

What does a typical day as a Researcher look like?

As a COVID-19 Researcher, I work under several medical and graduate students for 8-hours a week. During each shift, I waited for a phone call from the J.O. North saying that the COVID-19 samples are off for delivery to the AMSL lab. When the samples arrive, the undergraduates and medical students worked together to account for each sample and store each sample in the -30 to -10°C fridge.

The undergraduate students then don the proper equipment required for the Biosafety Level-2 laboratory, which included a pair of goggles, two sets of gloves, a sleeve cover, and a lab coat. Once the proper equipment was worn, one undergrad would log into the Epic system while the other undergrad placed the received sampled into the hood. Each sample was wiped off with a Sani wipe then scanned into the Epic system. After each sample was scanned, the sample was plotted onto a 96 well diagram. The 96 well diagrams were provided to the medical and graduate students.

Medical students would obtain a 96 well plate with proteinase and meticulously add each COVID-19 sample into the wells. After the wells were completed, each control was added. Following the controls, the 96 well plates were then sealed off and sent across the hallway to the PCR lab.

In the PCR lab, several medical students worked to add the final solution to the 96 well plates. The medical students used multichannel pipettes to transfer the samples into the PCR plate. The PCR plates were then sealed again and placed in the PCR computer room, where each sample would be analyzed. The results of each sample were then analyzed and added to the My Chart platform for patients to see.

Overall, both roles were quite different but both provided greater insight into the COVID-19 process completed at The Ohio State University.

I am very thankful for the opportunities provided during the pandemic and I hope to continue giving back to the OSU community.

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